UPDATED: Latvia to buy Austrian howitzers

Latvia is to purchase used self-propelled howitzers from Austria as part of its ongoing equipment purchase program, the Defense Ministry announced February 21.

A deal to buy the big guns will be signed "in the near future" the ministry said.

In total 47 units of military hardware will be purchased from Austria, including not only M109 155mm self-propelled guns but also driver training platforms and a mobile tactical control center.

Costs will vary from €60,000 to €140,000 per unit according to the precise specification and the level of upgrade each unit has.

The Defense Ministry told LSM February 22 the total cost of the deal would be around €6 million, giving an average unit price of €127,000.

The howitzers Latvia plans to buy were bought by Austria from the UK and handed over at Mansergh Barracks, Gütersloh in 1994. They were upgraded and have been kept in storage since around 2007.

The UK had previously bought the guns from the US, which first introduced the M109 in the early 1960s.

Since then, upgraded versions including the famous 'Paladin' have become a common feature of many western armies.

You can see the Austrian M109s in action in the video below.

According to this military blog: "A total of 112 M109A2 and A3 self-propelled howitzers were purchased from a downsizing British Army of the Rhine. These, together with M109s which were already in the Austrian artillery arsenal, were brought to the Austrian M109A5 ÖE standard. These refits include new Austrian hydraulic rams and primer magazines, which allow the rate of fire to be doubled, new barrels that extend the firing range to about 30 km, and navigation upgrades that will allow the howitzer crews to set up in their firing positions autonomously."

They have a range of 22 to 30 km, depending upon the type of shells fired and a well-trained crew can fire up to 12 shells per minute, the ministry said.

It is planned that the first howitzers will be delivered this autumn.

There is an excellent account of the history of the M109 and its various users HERE.

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